Your foot doctor has tried non-invasive approaches to relieve your arthritic ankle pain. The pain and swelling persists, and they have recommended that you have total ankle joint surgery to replace the damaged bones. This procedure will get you back on your feet again without the pain and inflammation you have experienced for so long. Here is what will happen during that surgery and what you can expect when recovering from the procedure.
The Artificial Joint
The damaged bone at the end of your lower leg is removed, as well as portion of the talus, the first bone in your ankle. Metal and plastic components are fitted to these bone surfaces and cemented into place. These components glide smoothly over each other, like a natural ankle joint. The tendons and ligaments in your ankle are then repositioned to support the new ankle joint and allow it to move through its normal range of motion.
The result is the removal of bone and tissue damaged by the arthritis that caused pain and inflammation every time you moved your ankle. Recovery from this surgery focuses on strengthening the muscles and tendons in your ankle so your new joint will support you and allow the flexibility to walk naturally.
Tissue and Bone Healing
The first step is to allow the soft tissues to heal in your ankle. You'll walk with crutches while touching your foot lightly to the floor for balance. The tendons and ligaments affected by the surgery heal slowly because they have less blood supply than muscles and other tissues. In a few days, you'll have a follow up appointment with your foot doctor to make sure the incision is healing properly and there is no sign of infection. If the tissues are healing normally, your doctor at a place like The Podiatry Center will have you begin therapy to gain back flexibility in your new joint and strengthen your ankle muscles.
Physical Therapy for Your Ankle
A physical therapist will work with your ankle to slowly stretch out the muscles supporting it. The muscles will have contracted slightly and your ankle will feel stiff. As the muscles become more flexible and your new ankle joint can move freely through all directions, you'll be allowed to put more weight on your foot and leg. Until the muscles are strong enough to hold the new joint together, your ankle may be unstable and you risk it collapsing under you as you walk.
You'll start slowly adding weight to your ankle as you walk on a treadmill under the supervision of the physical therapist. They will make sure that you're moving your ankle correctly so you'll have a normal gait as your ankle heals. For example, walking with the ankle turned in or out slightly puts stress on the ankle joint. A natural position of the ankle allows the muscles and tendons to heal properly, giving your ankle the support it needs.
Physical therapy will take several weeks to fully restore ankle motion and strength. Set a pace with your physical therapist and don't push yourself beyond those limits. A slow and gradual strengthening of your new ankle joint is key to successfully recovering from the ankle surgery.
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